Tag Archives: Debs

Graffiti Characters

We are talking old school characters, the supporter of the heraldic calligraphy. Graffiti artists draw on many sources from comic books, tattoos art and other illustrators. The reverse is also true and many artists working on the street create comic books, tattoos and other legitimate/paid artwork. The influence of comics and cartoons on traditional hip-hop aerosol art is clear with characters. Although the influences of other sci-fi or fantasy illustration artists cannot be ignored with hyperrealism and overdone shine marks.

Unknown, classic characters, Brunswick 2012

Unknown, classic characters, Brunswick 2012

Unknown, James Brown, Brunswick, 2011

Unknown, James Brown, Brunswick, 2011

Painting characters can be showing off the graffiti writer’s artistic chops or the work of a writer who specialises in characters.

Debs, Rankins Lane 2009

Debs, Rankins Lane 2009

Some graffiti writers, like Dabs and Myla, create their own characters.

Dabs and Mylar, Collingwood, 2010

Dabs and Mylar, Collingwood, 2010

Unknown, Bootsey Collins, Brunswick, 2013

Unknown, Snoop Dogg, Brunswick, 2013

Unknown, Elvira, Brunswick

Unknown, Elvira, Brunswick, 2013

Aside from comic book, other graffiti characters also show other pop culture influences from James Brown to Elvira. The art of movie and other billboard painting looked like it was about to disappear as printing technology improved and became cheaper. In Melbourne Adnate of the AWOL crew and Rone of the Everfresh crew have resurrected the billboard-sized portrait.

Rone in Collins Street, 2014

Rone in Collins Street, 2014

However, I must say that the idea of character design seems limited to me because a character without a world and story is nothing but image. An isolated character often appears meaningless, lost and stationary even if they are frenetic.

Unknown, Collingwood, 2009

Unknown, Collingwood, 2009

Sofles, Fitzroy, 2010

Sofles, Fitzroy, 2010

Once again, if I have failed to attribute a work or I have misattributed a work, please contact me and I will make a correction.

Unknown, Ilham Lane, 2011

Unknown, Ilham Lane, 2011

Unknown, character, Collingwood, 2008

Unknown, character, Collingwood, 2008


What is an Artist?

What is art? Answer: something that an artist calls art. This raises the next question: what is an artist? The obvious and almost circular answer to this question is someone who makes art. This can lead on to discussions about how to make art (including by an artist calling it art) but for this blog post I will stay with the question of what is an artist.

Debs painting in Croft Alley, 2009

Debs painting in Croft Alley, 2009

After many years of paying attention to the institutional theory of art I want to look more closely at the artist rather than gallery. I am becoming aware of some of the inadequacies of the theory. Is the institutional theory of art basically Marxist in declaring that the material reality makes art? In that case so much for Duchamp’s cerebral approach and the individual psychology of artists.

There is the idea of the artistic temperament; that artists are born and not trained. There was also the idea that artists were inspired by the spirits; hence the word ‘inspiration’. But we can’t have faith in the ghosts of words. Are artists really different from the statistical norm in any measurable way? Considering that Asbergers syndrome and ADHD are no longer clinically assessed, it is time to point out that an artistic personality or temperament has never been clinically assessed.

Rather than an artistic personality perhaps artistic work is the product of a scholarly temperament? Describing the very first modern artists in Korea Youngna Kim

“Rather than thinking of themselves as artists trying to make a living, they seemed to regard themselves they seemed to consider themselves the literati from the Joseon dynasty. They considered painting a hobby and did not produce much work.” [Youngna Kim Modern And Contemporary Art in Korea (Hollym, 2005, New Jersey) p.11-12]

Gallery La Mer in Seoul

Gallery La Mer in Seoul

Youngna Kim’s history of Korean modern art drew my attention to this traditional where scholars produces ink paintings, poetry and music because of their temperament and the contrary idea of professional modern artist. This tradition exists in Europe but because of Korea’s compressed art history it is more clearly expressed. These two contrary ideas about why a person makes art influences subsequent interpretations of the art produced. What we expect an artist to be; these two ideas about who is an artist helps makes sense of a great deal of debate about what is art and what is good art.

The modern artist produces art as a professional, educated and trained in how to make and sell art. The professional artist is trained in techniques and is an insider in the art world. Professional artist is exploiting a market for their talents and produce the bulk of the art in circulation; Salvator Rosi became the first artists to paint speculatively rather than for commissions. As professionals they have a degree of reliability and consistency in the art they produce.

Contrasted to the person with a scholarly temperament may turn their attention to art from time to time as part of variety of interests. They are not so narrowly focused and generally work in an unrelated occupation; Desmond Morris painting, Brian Cox played in a 80s band, or Lenny Lipton, the man who wrote Puff the Magic Dragon and programmed the 3D navigation on the Mars Rover. Although the quality of the individual works of art can be as good as the professionals the quantity of the work is not sufficient to satisfy the market.

What kind of artist do you aspire to be?


Sweet Streets – Week 2

Sweet Streets is all over now for another year. Week 2 was the final week of the Sweet Streets, a festival of urban and street art; not that my work as secretary is done, there is still the AGM to organize and clean up of the venues to complete. I also have to finish putting my notes from the festival’s artist’s forum together into a coherent blog entry.

I was feeling a bit burnt out from all the festivals, not just Sweet Streets but also the Melbourne Festival, the Fringe Festival and life. There is so much packed into Melbourne’s calendar in October, the only time available after the football season and before the end of year silly season. So I took a walk in the spring sunshine around the Fitzroy portion of the artist’s trail. I hadn’t thought about the therapeutic value of this walk until I was contacted by an Occupational Therapist at the Alfred, who wanted to take a group of clients on the walk. Walking is very good exercise and having a reason to be observant on a walk also feels good. I was vaguely hoping that I might meet up with Judy Baxt who was going to be working on her yarn bombing part of the trail and to talk about yarn bombing with her. I must catch up with her another time.

Yarn bombing along the art trail in Fitzroy by Thomas Chung

I didn’t make it to the opening of the Collingwood Underground part of the festival. Sweet Streets (and the Melbourne Stencil Festival in previous years) is one of the few arts festivals to actually produce art and not just present it. The artists in the festival collaborate to produce works that are auctioned off at the end of the festival. The Collingwood Underground, a disused carpark, provides the space for the collaboration and interaction between the participating artists, as well as, workshops for the public. Some of the work in the underground was documented on a video by one of the artists, Danny.

Junky Projects

I’m not the only one who is worn out. The unofficial star of the festival has been Daniel (aka Junky Projects). He has been everywhere – running workshops, drinking at openings, talking at the forum, and wearing a variety of outrageous sunglasses and clothes. Look at a set of photos of the festival and there he is larger than life. There have been rumours on the street that Junky Projects is a female heroin addict. They are not true – he is a large man with red hair and beard. However, he was too sick with a cold to be the auctioneer for the annual charity auction at the end of the festival, so Phil Hall, the artistic director, stepped in to fill the gap.

Are they selling the walls now?

Phil Hall conducting Sweet Streets auction

The objective of the charity auction was to “raise money for the future of Sweet Streets as well as the Collingwood Housing Estate Arts Community, and Anglicare Victoria – our chosen charities” (quoting the festival website). Most of it will be put towards paying for this year’s festival, but that is the future of Sweet Streets.

For those of you interested in the fiscal value of street art, the auction raised over $10,000 (up from $6,000 last year). The highest prices were: an Obey (A/P artist’s proof print) $300, large Civil/Boo collaboration $450, HaHa canvas $410 and a large Debs $800.  (For those making comparisons in US$ the AUS$ is basically at parity with the US$ this weekend, a fraction less).


Street Art Media Watch

Street art is still a sexy topic in the media and a good way to sell a product. It can be any product from shoes, to magazines, to books, to cars, to politicians. Victoria’s anti-graffiti laws advertising campaign is now, after the initial public poster campaign, used by politicians and some hardware stores to advertise their toughness and anti-graffiti credentials.

There is now the sub-genre of street-fabric-art. Perri Lewis reports about yarn bombing in the Guardian but ultimately this is simply promotion for a book. In Melbourne there has already been lots of street-fabric-art: the word “Material” made from stuffed fabric letters has been up in Hosier Lane for almost a year now and there is the crochet-covered tree on near the corner of Gertrude and Brunswick St.

Crochet covered tree in Gertrude St.

Crochet covered tree in Gertrude St.

The double page advertisement for the Suzuki Swift (Attitude, #62, 2009) exploits Melbourne street art. The background for the advertisement has been heavily photoshopped but includes a few easily recognizable stencils, paste-ups and aerosol work. For example, Debs phone-car image is visible although her tag has been altered to “Dep”. I hope that someone is taking legal action against Suzuki for this breach of copyright. (Yes, if you paint it on a wall, legally or illegally, you have published it and in Australia it is automatically your copyright.) Do not support corporations that exploit street art – I won’t be buying a Suzuki – a bicycle is better.

Finally, to end on an up beat, A1one is featured in a one-page profile in Juxtapoz (Feb. 2009) magazine. A1one is an Iranian street artist. I met him when he visited Melbourne last year for the Melbourne Stencil Festival; it was his first trip abroad. Like many street artists he is a quiet, intelligent young man with an interest in local history and the community. His work can still be seen on some walls around Melbourne. Juxtapoz may be an American magazine but it has never been isolationist in its view.

A1one - Gertrude St. Fitzroy

A1one - Gertrude St. Fitzroy


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